Several sessions into therapy, Justin was still complaining about his "thick-headed" creative writing instructor, who failed to recognize his superior intelligence or make special allowances for his gifted ability. Eventually, Jenna shifted the conversation to Justin's parents. As expected, his mother had always been completely devoted to his welfare, anticipating his every need. Even though he'd been gone from home over a semester, she still called every day and sent weekly care packages of his favorite snacks. He really was the center of the universe, at least for his mother. By bringing his early environment into therapy, Jenna led Justin to the very edge of insight. Unfortunately, he was not yet able to connect his arrogance and disappointment in his instructor with the expectations formed from his mother's worship.
for each other, with little loss of measurement precision or with losses that are at least quantifiable. An alcohol thermometer and a mercury thermometer provide just about the same reading. Second, once precise measurements have been made, they can be entered into highly developed mathematical models. Users can forget about the source of their measurements and instead concentrate on understanding the phenomena at hand. Many physical models work in this fashion.
Measurement in the social sciences, however, suffers from intrinsic imprecision. The phenomena of the social sciences are loosely bounded, with emergent properties not easily understood in terms of lower levels of organization. Chemistry builds on the physical properties of matter, biology builds on chemistry, and psychology builds on biology. But wetness is not easily understood from the properties of hydrogen and oxygen alone, and consciousness is not easily understood through biology. Moreover, social science phenomena often cannot be understood apart from the context in which they occur. At the psychological level, the variables of the science are hypothetical constructs, such as anxiety or masochism. They may have biological correlates, perhaps in certain brain structures or neurotransmitter systems, but they also have a psychological component that cannot be reduced to biology.
In contrast to the physical sciences, measurement instruments in personality and psychopathology are inherently imprecise. If the thermometer reads 50 degrees, everyone knows it's jacket weather. However, if a therapist reports that a subject obtained a score of 50 on a depression scale, the question automatically asked is, "Which scale?" The correlation between an alcohol and a mercury thermometer is extremely high, but that of personality measures is often modest and sometimes very disappointing. Even instruments designed as parallel forms do not correlate perfectly. The therapist must know the identity of the measurement instrument; otherwise, the score is meaningless. Moreover, two instruments of the same kind may be given to the same subject but disagree in their findings. Two personality disorder instruments might produce substantially different profiles, for example, or an inventory and a clinical interview might disagree. Everyone has driven in the rain; when you look at the drops on the windshield,
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